Brian Urlacher said the Bears didn't get much respect before the season. | AP
MINNEAPOLIS – It was Brian Urlacher’s middle-finger moment.
Following Monday night’s domination of a lifeless Minnesota team, the Bears linebacker stood in front of his locker, addressing the media, fresh off earning the NFC North Division title with the 40-14 Winter Wonderland laugher.
The first question thrown Urlacher’s direction: How did a team that looked so bad, so inept just one week earlier against New England, pick itself up off the ground and go from the beaten to the beater?
“We had a game last week?’’ Urlacher replied sarcastically. “We clinched the division this week, and that’s all that matters.
“We played better this year, won games when we had to. We didn’t get a lot of respect coming into the season, during the season, but we’re where we want to be right now.’’
Where they are right now is not debatable. The Bears are division champs and in the hunt for the all-important first-round bye.
The staying power they have going into the playoffs, however, is debatable. One signature win over Philadelphia is the Bears resume. They beat a bad division and handled a mediocre – at best - schedule. The good news for the Bears is that the playoffs don’t ask you how you got here. They pat you on the back, congratulate you for the work you did and allow you to dream that anything is possible.
And while the 36-7 loss to the Patriots looked like a low point in the Year of the Bear, some good ol’ fashion resiliency has made it a game to point at and say, “we needed that.’’
“Anytime you take a loss like that it’s a good learning tool,’’ Bears defensive end Julius Peppers insisted. “We look at the tape, we learn from it – we tried to put it behind us, but that was a good thing that happened to us last week. Obviously you don’t want to get beat like that, but sometimes you can learn from those types of games.’’
The lesson learned, besides the obvious that the AFC is the varsity to the NFC’s JV?
“That we have to execute better, really,’’ Peppers said. “When you play good football teams you’ve got to execute. That’s what last week taught us.’’
Peppers wasn’t the only Bears player to take advantage of that learning moment, either.
The New England loss raised questions about the Bears offense – specifically if the Mike Martz circus show can play in bad weather. You know, the kind of weather that the Bears can count on playing in throughout most of the remaining season. Kind of important.
“It’s another thing that’s a variable in the game that we can’t worry about,’’ running back Matt Forte said of the weather. “We just have to go out there and run our offense, execute, and do the best not to turn the ball over. That wasn’t the case [against New England].
“That was a wake-up call. It let us know that we haven’t arrived yet, we’re not a perfect team, there’s still a lot of stuff we need to do to get better.’’
How this all ends, well, that chapter is yet to be written.
The simple eye test reveals the Bears are more of a right place, right time, type of team that usually earns a one- or two-game playoff showing before being sent home for the rest of the winter.
“Because I see these guys every day,’’ Peppers explained, when asked why he felt this team was special. “I see these guys work, I see what type of players we have on the team, I see the coaches – the coaches don’t accept anything but our best. Anytime you can have that combination of things together, good things got to happen. It’s sort of like the football gods, they make sure good things happen to those that work hard and do things right.’’
Obviously, Peppers isn’t into eye tests.